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WORD OF GOD
IMPORTANT FACTORS IN BIBLE TRANSLATION
Victor M. Eskew
A. Most people do not speak the Hebrew and Greek languages.
B. Therefore, translations of the Word of God are necessary.
C. The following are some interesting statistics about “The Worldwide Status of Bible Translation (2017).” (https://www.wycliffe.org/about/why)
1. About 7,000 languages are known to be in use today.
2. More than 1,400 languages have access to the New Testament and some portions of Scripture in their language.
3. More than 600 languages have the complete translated Bible.
4. Approximately 2,400 languages across 165 countries have active translation and linguistic development work happening right now.
5. More than 1,600 languages still need a Bible translation project to begin.
6. Up to 160 million people need Bible translation to begin in their language.
D. When a person is selecting a Bible translation, there are several questions that need to be asked and answered about each version. Let’s look at five of these in this lesson.
I. WHO CARRIED OUT THE WORK OF TRANSLATION?
II. WHAT DID THE TRANSLATORS TRANSLATE?
A. Did they translate a highly regarded version that previously existed? (i.e., Is the NKJV just an updated rendition of the older KJV?)
B. Did they translate directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts?
1. Ecclectic texts published by the German or United Bible Societies
2. Byzantine Majority Text
C. Did they translate from a combination of the two listed above? (i.e., the KJV relied on the Bishop’s Bible and Wycliffe’s translation in addition to Hebrew and Greek texts).
D. Did the texts that were used include the Septuagint version?
E. Why is this important?
1. If they are translating from a translation in another language, the translators are relying on the expertise of those who made that previous translation.
2. Hebrew and Greek texts differ and will make for differences between translations (i.e., if a Greek text omits a phrase or a verse, it is impossible to translate it).
III. WHAT IS THE TRANSLATOR’S PURPOSE?
A. Liturgical reading in churches
B. Personal, devotional use
C. Academic study
D. Promoting evangelistic mission work
E. To be read by people with lower reading abilities
F. Storytelling, dramatic, video, or audio formats
1. “The Message is a reading Bible. It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available. My intent here (as it was in my congregation and community) is simply to get people reading it who don’t know that the Bible is readable at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again” (“Preface, pp. 7-8).
2. The Cotton Patch Version of the Bible has been developed for easy reading and for humor.
H. NOTE: The United Bible Society suggest that each person be familiar with at least two different Bibles: the one used by the church for worship purposes, and the one used by the individual for personal study and devotional reading.
IV. HOW IS THE TRANSLATION WORK CARRIED OUT?
A. Literal and archaic approach, sometimes referred to as word-for-word translation
B. Dynamic equivalent
C. Functional equivalent, sometimes called thought for thought translation
D. NOTE: How the translation was carried out is important to the messages that is communicated in the new translation. One of the key elements of any translation should be accuracy. In other words, the translators should do their best to accurately translate the Greek and Hebrew into the language of the people.
V. WHAT WILL BE INCLUDED IN THE TRANSLATION?
A. How will it be named?
1. Holy Bible
2. The Word of God
B. Introduction to the work
C. Introductions to the books of the Bible
D. Chapter, section, and paragraph headings
E. Textual notes
F. Interpretive notes
H. Maps, charts, pictures
M. Design of the work
N. Front and back covers
O. Study Bible
a. The Scofield Reference Bible
b. Johnson’s New Testament with Notes
2. “There are many anecdotes to the effect that many of its readers never distinguished between the authority of the main text and the authority of the notes, treating the later as if they carried divine authority” (Contemporary Approaches, Ciampa, Footnote #13).
A. Translating God’s Word is an absolute essential.
B. It has become a very lucrative business. This is the main reason for the proliferation of the modern versions.
C. We must be careful in choosing a translation. Thus, we must ask some important questions about the version we are examining.
D. NOTE: Where do we find the answers?
1. The Preface to the new versions reveals a lot of this information.
2. Most translations have handbooks about these matters that are published when the translation is published.
3. With the internet’s availability, it is easy to find out many things about the versions while they are being translated and after.